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Should Fresno City Employees Be Allowed To Carry Guns At Work?

Valley Public Radio

The next time you go to Fresno City Hall or see a city employee looking for people watering their yards on banned watering days, that employee might be carrying a concealed fire arm. That's if the Fresno City Council approves a new proposal from council member Garry Bredefeld.

There are more than 1,500 people in the city of Fresno who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Among that group, some almost certainly are city employees working everywhere from behind a desk to doing code enforcement on abandoned properties.

City council member Garry Bredefeld says those city workers should be allowed to carry their weapon on the job the same as they do off the clock.

“If there are people, employees, throughout Fresno working, if they would feel safer being able to carry their weapon because they have a legal right to do so, we want to allow them to do that,” Bredefeld says.

Bredefeld has submitted a resolution to the city council to make it clear that if a city worker has obtained a permit to carry a concealed firearm, they can do so at work.

There is currently no city statute specifically prohibiting or permitting employees from carrying weapons on the job. However, there is an administrative order currently in place that bans weapons of all kinds, whether concealed or not, from the workplace.

Bredefeld says that just doesn’t make sense.

“If you live in the City of Fresno and you want a CCW, you have to go through 8 hours of training. In the county, you have to go through 6. You do background checks, federal background checks. They do training with their weapons. People who have CCW permits are probably the most responsible citizens you will ever run across,” Bredefeld says.

Bredefeld says he is responding to the recent mass shooting spree in downtown Fresno allegedly conducted by Kori Muhammad. Police say Muhammad was able to fire 16 rounds and kill 3 people before surrendering to police.

But Bredefeld says had an armed city employee been nearby, that case might have been different.

One of the victims in that case did work for PG&E but aside from the officer, it is not clear if there were other city employees around.

This proposal is not sitting well with many in city government and employee union leaders.

Mayor Lee Brand says he supports concealed carry permits, but not this resolution.

Dee Barnes, president of the Fresno City Employees Association, says allowing employees to carry guns at work raises a huge liability issue, even though the resolution would require the employee to have a $1 million insurance policy.

“But anybody that knows anything about lawsuits, especially when you are looking at somebody with deep pockets, they are going to sue the city and the employee. Especially when the city is the one who allowed the employee to carry a gun,” Barnes says.

Barnes also says most employees are not trained to be the first line of defense when on the job and some just don’t want guns around the workplace. And even among highly trained law enforcement officers, there have been accidental shootings, including two in Fresno in the last year.

“You have the one deputy sheriff accidentally shot and killed another deputy sheriff. And you had another one who was in the process of getting out of a car and he was putting his leg holster on and shot himself in the leg. So there are accidents even with people who are trained to have guns all the time,” Barnes says.

Fresno Chief of Police Jerry Dyer is also against the proposal.

He says he could see a scenario where city employees are allowed to carry but just allowing blanket permission is a recipe for trouble.

“I don’t believe that should occur. It needs to be on an individual basis. On a case by case basis depending on the individual’s assignment, temperament, further training. All of those things need to way in,” Dyer says.

Dyer has long been a strong supporter of concealed carry permits and says he has issued more than 150 just this year. Although he also acknowledged they revoke one or two a year as well.

Still, he says the work place is just an entirely different world.

“Having a concealed weapon permit with a firearm when you are out with your family and at dinner or going to the movies, that’s one thing. Having it in the work place? I think there is an entirely different environment that is created there that requires some additional conditions be placed on that,” Dyer says.

The resolution is set to come before the council a week from today. But even if it passes you won’t see employees carrying weapons next Friday. Because of contracts with employee groups, there would have to be a series of meetings before any policy change took effect.

Jeffrey Hess is a reporter and Morning Edition news host for Valley Public Radio. Jeffrey was born and raised in a small town in rural southeast Ohio. After graduating from Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio with a communications degree, Jeffrey embarked on a radio career. After brief stops at stations in Ohio and Texas, and not so brief stops in Florida and Mississippi, Jeffrey and his new wife Shivon are happy to be part Valley Public Radio.